Unst in Shetland to aim for space programme

UKube-1Image copyright UK Space Agency
Image caption A Glasgow company was commissioned to build Ukube-1 – Scotland‘s first satellite

Shetland is preparing a bid to become a launch base for satellites.

Detailed proposals have been drawn up and are likely to be submitted to the UK Space Agency next year.

The plans involve launching payloads into space from Unst, Scotland‘s most northerly island.

Scotland already has a successful space industry – building satellites and the components for them. It has been estimated to be worth more than £130m and to employ 7,000 people.

Much of the new industry is based in Glasgow.

Image caption An artist’s impression of the Machrihanish spaceport

Legislation on space flight, currently going through Parliament, could allow vertical launches of satellites from the UK for the first time.

Other proposals for Scottish space flight centres include Sutherland, the Western Isles, Prestwick and Machrihanish.

Malcolm Macdonald, director of the Scottish Centre of Excellence in Satellite Applications at Strathclyde University, said: “You are looking to launch away from people, so you can’t have any local population in the area, any villages, or towns or that sort of thing.

“And you then can’t overfly people as well and you can’t overfly oil rigs and these types of things as well.

“You are really looking for where there is very little in the air and very little on the sea, and that’s why the north of Scotland is really attractive for this.”

The first satellite designed and built in Scotland was launched in July 2014 via a rocket in Kazakhstan, piggy-backing along with other larger payloads.

Earlier this year, the UK government’s Department for Transport (DfT) told BBC Scotland it had been working hard to develop the Modern Transport Bill but there was currently “no timetable” for its implementation.

A DfT spokeswoman admitted that events over the last year, such as Brexit, had made it difficult to find parliamentary time for the bill.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Kazakhstan has become an established centre for commercial space launces
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